Juanita Richardson posts:

slide-image-2Sunday morning at Computers in Libraries, I listened to Brian Pickman from Evolve Project talk about the library spaces he has helped redesign. I was inspired by his excitement and passion for what we can do with our existing spaces – even when we don’t have the budget for the big reno – to really deliver value to our public.  The answer is in engagement.  As Brian said:  “We are creating fabulous spaces – but are failing to engage.  Our new library spaces must allow for patrons and staff to engage.”  Even better:  our patrons have already told us how to engage them:  they want maker spaces to DO things; they want more study areas; they want more open space where they can change up the environment to suit themselves.  All we have to do is listen!

5 Keys to Drive Engagement:

  1. Create and Invent – by this, we mean inviting our PATRONS to create and invent.  One suggestion for a kids’ space:  put up a cork board and use coloured golf tees as pushpins – allows the kids to draw or write anything they are interested in and pin it to the wall.  Doubles as free “art”!
  2. Discovery – we can get obsessed about discovery-layer technologies.  What about just turning the picture books face out to enable discovery?
  3. Collaboration – a smart table – which operates as a horizontal smart board – offers all the interactivity but around a table to ensure everyone gets to participate!
  4. Interaction – ensure all your seating accommodates teens’ need to cluster together.  All you need are a few soft couches!
  5. Innovation – if you haven’t seen the sound egg chair, this is the answer to libraries looking to enable students to plug in their iPods, play on their game stations – all with the surround-sound comfort of their own egg !


More innovation:

Be innovative with your policies. Instead of fining kids for late books, waive their fine if they write a book review / draw a picture about that book that gets posted to your bulletin board.  This way, you remove the pressure from the kids to have to ask their parents for money to pay their book fine – which results in the library experience being a negative one instead of the positive one it should be.


Be innovative with your staff involvement.  Identify staff by their interests – and make them the resident expert on that topic.  For example, if you have a staff member who is particularly interested in cooking, they become that resident subject expert who can be called on to assist a patron who is looking at cookbooks and is wondering about recipes.

Be innovative with gadgets.  Brian created an interactive game where kids followed a sphero ball that acted as a guide to the library.

We closed with looking at photos of some of the attendees libraries with Brian offering some quick design fixes to challenges many libraries face:

Challenge:  All white walls.  Brian’s answer:  “WOW!  Can you paint those walls?  Maybe red?  Any colour that won’t make your students think ‘white = school = boring’. ”

Challenge:  An overwhelming circulation desk in the middle of the space.  Brian’s answer: “Do you LIKE that circ desk?  No?  Well, then, shrink it down to accommodate only two circ staff who would be standing – and send your other circ person out to roam and engage your patrons!”

Challenge:  A large staff office space that really needs to be reintegrated into the main library space / maybe converted to digital resources space.  Brian’s answer:  “So … the problem really is that your librarian is not on board with that change … even though it would really bring your library into this century and engage your students.”  (Comment from the floor:  that librarian should realize that there are LOTS of librarians out there …)

Not all library space redesign needs to be costly.  Start with what you have.  How can that space be re-imagined?  Slide19Maybe just paint the walls and tables.  Maybe buy some new soft, light stools that can be moved around by patrons at their will.  Once you’ve gone that far, take another look and think of what else you can re-imagine.  Create the fab space – and ensure your patrons are engaged.